Language Innovation

Topics: Linguistics, Language, Semantics Pages: 6 (1867 words) Published: February 14, 2012
Language innovation

It is well known that time changes everything in this universe; thus; it would be strange if language alone does not alter. As the famous linguist Ferdinand de Saussure noted ‘’time changes all things: there is no reason why language should escape thi suniversal law’’ in (Aitchison (ed), 1981: 16).

All living languages are in a constant state of change in the sense that, new words and expressions come into existence, old words are dropped and new pronunciation takes place. This fact is commented on by the German philosopher-linguist Wilhelm Von Humboldt, who stated that ‘’ there can never be a moment of true standstill in language, just as little as in the ceaselessly flaming thought of men. By nature it is a continuous process of development’’ in (Aitchicon (ed), 1981).

Language change contributes greatly to the appearence of phonology, syntax and semantics. So what can we say about semantics ?

a) Semantic change

Semantic change is a change that affects the meaning of a word either by the addition of other possible meanings to the same word, or by the loss of its meaning of its meaning over a period of time. Polysemous words can be good examples of historical semantic change in that different lexicographers may impose different extensions of meanings on the same words through ages. This fact- as Sadiqi and Ennaji (1992) noted- helps very much in the explanation of the way lexicographers organize their dictionaries, as well as the type of historical sources they use as a basis for dictionary compiling. As an illustration, the word ‘’service’’ has acquired different meanings from its original one: * The state of being a servant

* Government employment
* Help
* Benefit, advantage
* Worship, prayer
* Complete set of plates
* Playing a ball in tennis
(Sadiqi and Ennaji, 1992: 267)

Another example of semantic change is provided by Aitchison (ed)(1981) who noticed that some words have change their meanings in unpredictable ways ‘’as Robin Iakoff pointed out, because of the decline in the employment of servants, the term master and mistress are now used in rather different ways from their original meaning’’ (Aitchison (ed), 1981:30). Master now usually refers to ‘’ to be skillfull in something, whereas mistress refers to a female lover’’.

What about phonological change?

b) Phonological change

Bailey (1973) has noted that for many young speakers in the Western part of the U.S., the distinction between the vowels in such pairs of words, such as “naughty” and “knotty”, “caught” and “cot”, “dawn” and “Don” has completely disappeared in Wardhaugh (1986:192). A second example of phonological change comes from the study of labov of the fluctuating /r/ in New York speech. He states that there are people who use or do not use /r/ in words, such as car, bear, and beard. His study does not prove that the absence or the presence of /r/ would not be a mere chance, but would be correlated with social status in (Aitchison (ed), 1981: 90).

Apart from the analysis of r, Aitchison looked at the sounds at the beginning of “the”, “this” and “that”, which in New York sometimes pronounced as /du/ /dis/ and /dat/. A third example of phonological change is the one investigated in the survey of the Norwich variable (ng). This is the pronunciation of the suffix-ing in present participles, such as “walking” “reading. In most varieties of English the final consonant of this suffix is variable, alternating between /ny / and / n/ (Trudgill, 1980: 67).

After this section about phonological change let us now move to the lexical change.

c) Lexical change

Lexical change is a linguistic phenomenon that affects the vocabulary items of any natural language, in the sense that, new terms tend to be added, replaced or changed. Thus, if we look at any big dictionary, we will find numerous words which have totally disappeared from normal usage. “Thou” “thee” and “thy” can be...
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